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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: July 29, 2003
Byline: Editorial


Editorial: Wheel deal

Lunchers can lunch and skateboarders can skate in a LOVE Park for all.

Sometimes a good idea has to go dormant awhile, get revived and gussied up, then presented again before people take it seriously.

That's how the effort to return skateboarders to LOVE Park is rolling.

There always has been a way to satisfy two worthy usages of the Center City park — giving people a grassy lunch spot and allowing skateboarders to do their thing.

But only one side has been served so far, as Mayor Street had JFK Plaza redesigned last year and, with City Council, kept skaters out.

The city should continue its commendable plans to help skaters build a privately financed skate park at the Schuylkill River Park. But that's still no replacement for LOVE — either for the street skating it inspired or the economic potential it holds.

Over the decades, LOVE Park became an internationally renowned skateboarding mecca. An aging, shrinking city such as Philadelphia could hardly afford to throw away that symbol of vitality, youth and hipness — especially since that symbol was an enticing brand name in the multimillion dollar extreme-sport industry.

Why not, some argued oh so reasonably, restrict skating to later hours, so that never would a skateboard and a luncher's toe meet?

But politicians too often think in either-or terms. They see visions as competing when they could coexist.

So Mayor Street deserves credit for being open now to a new proposal to bring skateboarding back to LOVE. Next step for the mayor: backing it.

The plan would allow skateboarding in the park only on weekends and on weekdays after 3 p.m. A modest reconfiguration, one that brings back benches that skaters used to perform tricks, could return LOVE skateboarding to its glory days.

The plan — in all its Power Point glossiness — comes from a network of savvy young people who are members of the Independence Hall Association, Young Involved Philadelphia, and the Skateboard Advocacy Network. They're enlisting council members, including Blondell Reynolds Brown. She sees a "win-win" solution here.

Mindful of the valid complaint that skateboarding damages park surfaces, the network proposes a Friends of LOVE Park organization and a skateboarding hall of fame and shop (in the old, circular visitor's center) to raise maintenance money.

Good ideas. Throw in, too, an annual skateboarding competition and fund-raiser that would attract skaters, visitors and corporate sponsors from around the world.

Mayor Street can win-win himself by endorsing this compromise. He can mute mayoral opponent Sam Katz's attempt to use the issue against him, while showing himself capable of learning and changing. He could gain the applause of many, young and old, who lament LOVE's loss.

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